Speaking on a Debate Panel at Riverside, CA in July

I have been invited by organizer Phil Calderone to speak on a panel at Riverside, CA that will take place on July 9th, from 1:30-4:30 PM, in the community room of Louis Robidoux Library. The panel is part of a debate series called “Believers and Nonbelievers in Discussion.” The topic of the panel will be the historical reliability of the Bible, and there will be two panelists on each side. I’ll obviously be representing the “nonbeliever” position.

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For those who can’t make it to the event it in person, a video will be uploaded on YouTube afterward, which I will post here on Κέλσος. I will also post another announcement about the event, as its date approaches. You can read more about the group hosting the event on the following Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/BandNBtalk/

And you can likewise view previous panels that are part of this series on the following YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSW-YYey3jfORZ4fBwPZnZg

Overall, I greatly look forward to participating in this discussion. I have participated in three recorded debates previously, but this is my first chance to join in as part of a debate panel. I hope to bring some good skeptical arguments to the dialogue, especially from my background in Classical history and literature.

-Matthew Ferguson

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Dialogue with Vincent Torley over the Probability of Jesus’ Resurrection

Yesterday I wrote an extended response to apologist Vincent Torley’s OP–“Evidence for the Resurrection”–which was discussed recently in a post on John Loftus’ blog. In his OP, Torley argues that there is about a 60-65% subjective probability that Jesus rose from the dead, based on the disciples’ post-mortem experiences of Jesus.

Since a link to of one of my essays–“History, Probability, and Miracles”–was included in Loftus’ post and came up in the discussion thread, Torley made some criticisms of it, which led to a dialogue that eventually resulted in me writing my extended response to Torley’s OP. Here is my reply to Torley:

https://celsus.blog/reply-to-vincent-torley/

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If my tone sounds a bit frustrated at the beginning, I should note that I originally hadn’t planned to respond to the OP, as I have been busy working on my dissertation, but I got sidetracked into it when I responded to Torley’s criticism of my essay in the discussion thread. I’ll try to avoid sounding frustrated in my further interactions with Torley by moderating the amount of time I spend engaging in our arguments.

I think both Torley’s OP and my response raise some interesting questions about the role of probability in assessing historical claims, the nature of the primary sources for Jesus’ resurrection, and to what extent we can make precise description about the disciples’ alleged post-mortem experiences of Jesus. Readers of this blog will know that these are common topics discussed here on Κέλσος, and so I think they will find my dialogue with Torley to be of interest.

-Matthew Ferguson

Posted in Apologists, Historical Jesus, Historical Paul, History, Philosophy, Replies to Critics, Resurrection | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Upcoming Interview on Hinge Podcast about Faith, Doubt, and the Historical Jesus

I have been invited to do an interview on Hinge podcast regarding the life and figure of the historical Jesus (as as well as related issues concerning the New Testament), and the topic of faith and doubt. Hinge is run by two hosts, one a Christian pastor (Drew Sokol) and the other a skeptical atheist (Cory Markum), who together grapple with the mysteries surrounding Jesus of Nazareth, along with other issues pertaining to religion, history, and philosophy.

Hinge Podcast

The interview will be broken into pieces and included as part of a season of podcasts, which will span 10-12 sequential episodes, and will feature interviews with other biblical scholars, historians, philosophers, scientists, and writers, depending on the content of each episode. I will be appearing in at least one of the episodes and possibly more, depending on what rabbit holes we go down during the discussion.

Right now we are scheduled to hold the interview in June, but the first episode of the season won’t be released until late in the year (with a new episode released each week after that). I’ll post an announcement here once it is up. Until then, you can check out an earlier podcast on Hinge–titled Hinge: The Making Of”–which teases out some of the topics that Drew and Cory will get into when they release the official first season of Hinge later this year.

I greatly look forward to joining in as part of the discussion in this first season!

-Matthew Ferguson

Posted in Announcements | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

Shifting (Some of) the Emphasis on the Blog

These last several months, starting around Fall 2016, have been a heavy spiral of thoughts, emotions, and self-reflection, which have given me a good deal of consideration into what I want to do with my career, how I want to live my life, and the personal philosophy with which I approach this blog. I have also discussed some life events that have likewise had a major impact on me recently. I want to share a bit about how all of this will relate to my blogging, as well as my dissertation.

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My recent period of reflection has led me to the decision to re-brand Κέλσος a bit, which now has a new URL–Celsus.blog–and to shift some of its emphasis more toward exploring secular views of the Bible, theology, and philosophy (a positive approach), rather than framing what I do as “counter-apologetics” (a negative approach). This change in emphasis will not drastically affect the arguments that I make (I still plan to be critical of the arguments of Christian scholars), but it will involve framing things less adversarially. I was involved in Classics and the study of the ancient Mediterranean world long before I interacted with the arguments of religious apologetics, and all of the research that I do and the arguments that I make can continue to be done, within the less antagonistic context that I originally started.

Below I will discuss some of the ways that I think I can present the writing that I do on this blog in a more positive light, along with a number of the factors that made me reach the decision to re-brand:

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Posted in Announcements, Musings, Philosophy | Tagged | 10 Comments

New Patreon Page for Κέλσος and Civitas Humana

I have just created a new Patreon page for any of my readers who would like to contribute to the writing on my academic blogs, in addition to my scholarly work.

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Right now contributions can be made in increments of $10, $20, and $30 monthly. Let me know in the comments if you think that any other incriminates would be helpful.

If you would like to make single, one-time donations, remember that you can can also donate through my PayPal account.

I greatly appreciate any support that can be offered!

-Matthew Ferguson

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Sad News and an Update on Personal Health Recovery

I have been away from the blog for a while due to an unfortunate tragedy in my family, in addition to some personal medical treatment.

Earlier this month, on Wednesday, February 15th at 3PM, my sister, Kristen Leigh Weddle, passed away. My whole family is devastated. She was only 30 years old, and she also has a young son who is only three years of age. I was fortunate (as I could be) to be in a meeting with my therapist as I received this news, when my partner Camille unexpectedly arrived at the consultation. Both my therapist and Camille consoled me as I wept, and I have since been very shaken up this month.

My sister was only a year-and-a-half older than me, and she was my only sibling. We fought a lot when we were kids, and there was a great deal of sibling rivalry. Looking back, though, even the fights were good memories. Both Kristen and I grew up in Trona, CA together and were raised in the same Christian private school. Kristen was very religious her whole life, and didn’t like my deconversion to atheism. Even my parents were more accepting of my choice to leave religion, but I think that Kristen had always hoped that I would one day return to Christianity. I don’t mind that she thought that way. I know that her intentions were in the right place, even though I didn’t share her religious beliefs.

As an atheist, I do believe that I will never see or speak to my sister again, but I also know that she is no longer suffering. My sister passed away due to organ failure of her heart, liver, and kidneys. It was a triple system failure, which is very difficult to recover from. She was in the ICU for several weeks before passing, so the news was not entirely unexpected; however, Kristen had also made a temporary recovery, which made our family hopeful, but also made her death more shocking when she returned to mortal condition.

Around the beginning of this month, when Kristen had already been in the ICU for a number of weeks, I made the personal decision to finally seek intensive medical treatment for my insomnia, which I have mentioned on this blog a couple of times now. It has been plaguing me for over seven years now, and only getting worse. It got to the point where I would literally sit in a dark room, starting at 5PM every day, in order to trick my body into thinking it was nighttime. I would then go through multiple boxes of sleep-aid tea, in addition to sleeping medication, and still stay up until 3AM every night, and sometimes as late as 6AM. With my only sibling facing critical health problems, I decided it was best for my parents and myself for me to finally get a hold on my health issues.

I have been receiving intensive therapy this month, and working through a program that is teaching me a lot about how to manage both my mind and body. Part of the process has been physiological. I have been taking new medication that has been greatly helping with falling asleep earlier. The process has also been psychological. I realized working with my therapist that part of my insomnia is rooted in my Christian upbringing and trauma in childhood. When I was a child, I used to have several nightmares about hell and also would stay awake at night fearing the apocalypse. I was always terrified that Jesus would come “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). These dreams diminished when I became an atheist in high school, and they completely disappeared when I became a naturalist in college. But nevertheless, they still had a lasting effect on my sleeping patterns.

I am happy to report that I have made tremendous progress in my program. I am now able to fall asleep within two hours of trying to go to bed, which I have been unable to do for over seven years now. I have been feeling much healthier and more energetic, and have also been losing weight from a better diet and exercising.

I am especially glad to be improving, since I will really need to step up as an uncle now for my nephew, James Tiberius Weddle (I had some part in choosing his middle name). He has a very good father, both sets of grandparents nearby, and an uncle and two aunts on his father’s side; but in many ways I am the closest thing that he has now to his mother. I plan to take him to Trona one day, and to show him the house where Kristen and I grew up together. I want to be a loving uncle who can remind him of who his mother was.

I will be finishing my program soon and traveling to Phoenix for Kristen’s memorial. Everything that has happened this last month has delayed a number of my academic plans, and I certainly haven’t had time for blogging. Overall, though, I am just glad to be feeling so much healthier. I am sure that I will get back into the swing of things soon, but I also know that everyone will understand if I am busy for the next while.

Life flies by quickly, and we never know when our last day will be. As someone who believes that our conscious experience is finite, it reminds me to make the most out of every moment. My life in this physical world is the only one that I will ever have, and I plan to cherish it to the fullest. I wish the same for all others who live with kindness and empathy.

With thought and care,

Matthew Ferguson

Posted in Miscellaneous | 17 Comments

Where I’ve Come From, and Where I’m Going

2017-in-roman-numeralsAs we start the new year I would like to share some of my thoughts and plans for both writing and activism in 2017, as well as some personal history that I have only briefly discussed on this blog before.

As readers of Κέλσος will know, I have a passion for ancient history and Greek and Latin literature, which inspired me to pursue a career in Classics in 2009. Before that major event in my life, however, I once had a career in politics.

Continue reading

Posted in Announcements, Musings | 21 Comments